To the Editor:
How long will it take to get a U.S. president and Congress that “get it” when it comes to public education (“Obama Echoes Bush on Education Ideas,” April 8, 2009)? Education is not about high standards and accountability; it’s about doing the sorts of things that will preserve and nurture enthusiasm for learning. That will cause students to achieve the highest standards possible, and accountability will become a nonissue.
Further, the only “accountability” that makes sense is holding an individual responsible for making the right diagnosis of a problem, and then for applying the best that is known about dealing with the problem with reasonable competence. That’s as true in medicine as it is in education or policymaking. The most basic accountability ought to be that of our elected leaders who delve into issue after issue—from education to economics to creating world peace—and make the wrong diagnosis, and then dictate the treatment that simply reinforces that faulty diagnosis. Then they wonder why things don’t improve and blame others.
I was hopeful, but not optimistic, that President Barack Obama would finally be the one to break the mold in this regard. So far, I don’t see that happening.
Education is about facilitating a child’s natural curiosity, from which all genuine learning emerges. Until we begin to hold the system accountable for that occurring, and measure (rather than test) it longitudinally, we will simply keep swatting at gnats with little relief, and all the unenlightened hoopla and “stimulus” from the powers that be will be for naught.
A version of this article appeared in the April 22, 2009 edition of Education Week as Obama Disappoints in Failure to ‘Break the Mold’